One of the largest providers of drug and alcohol services for offenders has expressed serious concerns about primary care trusts’ readiness to commission them.
Responsibility for funding substance misuse treatment for offenders, in and outside of prison, transferred from the Ministry of Justice to Department of Health from 1 April, a decision taken in the October spending review.
PCTs are expected to take on the responsibility and received additional indicative allocations for the services late last month.
However, Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners Trust (RAPt) chief executive Mike Trace said there was significant confusion about who was responsible for the services this year and next.
He said it was also unclear who would be responsible from April 2013, when PCTs are due to be abolished.
Mr Trace said that, in some areas, PCTs were unlikely to continue plans made under the Ministry of Justice, making the future of services uncertain and in some cases under threat.
He said: “The immediate issue is how are the new budget holders going to behave in the absence of clear commissioning frameworks?
“On the ground we are seeing a very wide range of reactions.
“In some areas the PCT is picking it up and running with it, but in quite a few areas no-one is clear who is in charge, or what they are doing.”
Mr Trace said it made it difficult for RAPt to provide continuous services in some areas. The organisation provides intensive abstience-based drug and alcohol treatment in prisons, as well as to ex-offenders and others in the community.
Mr Trace said: “It is very uncertain in terms of service planning.”
He said the problem was exacerbated by uncertainty for PCTs’ themselves. He said: “These are organisations that are organising their own demise and wondering what’s going to happen next.”
He said although PCTs are initially responsible it was unclear to him whether this was intended to be the case after 2012, when the NHS Commissioning Board will be established. He said: “There is still a debate about how the system looks when all the dust settles.”
Mr Trace called for work to produce national commissioning guidance for the services to be accelerated.